Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?

By G. R. S. Mead

Content | Previous


XX.-AFTERWORD.

WE have now reached the end of our enquiry, and look back upon our labours with mingled feelings of thankfulness that they are temporarily ended, and of regret that the nature of the subject throughout has been such that, even with the best will in the world, we cannot have avoided giving offence to many who will never trouble themselves to reflect that an excavator in religious antiquity cannot justly be held to be responsible for the nature of the objects he unearths from the dbris of the buried past.  But apart from this, it is somewhat a thankless task to find oneself compelled to add to the already enormous mass of difficulties which confront the student of Christian origins, rather than to help in diminishing them.  For we can hardly hope that any but the few will be optimistic enough to have confidence that the very increasing of the difficulties is the surest way of hastening the day when some more potent means of removing them will be devised.

As we said at the outset, most Christians, whether they be unlearned or learned, will not hesitate for one instant to answer the amazing question: Did Jesus live 100 B.C.? with an indignant No. We shall, there-

414

fore, have accomplished as much as we can reasonably hope for, if an impartial consideration of the evidence should persuade the reader that some cause has been shown why the asking of such a question should not as a matter of course be impatiently condemned on sight as the fantastic conceit of a disordered mind. 

For, in the first place, we hope to have shown that the question is not of our own devising, but that, on the contrary, it arises as a legitimate subject of criticism out of an impartial enquiry into what appears to be one of the most persistent elements of Jewish tradition concerning Jesus.  We do not come forward with some wild theory of our own maliciously to vex the souls of those who naturally hold loyally to the thing they have grown used to in Christian canonical tradition; we simply point to the existence, and what we consider we have shown to be the persistence, of an entirely contradictory tradition held tenaciously for many centuries by the fellow-countrymen of Jesus. We have not the temerity to presume to decide offhand between those ancient oppositions, but simply show that they exist, and venture to think that they require further investigation.

The argument with regard to the persistency of the 100 B.C.date of Jesus is, of course, primarily addressed to Jewish scholars, and is put forward in the hope of drawing attention to Krauss' treatment of the subject, which cannot be held to be flattering to the pride of Israel in its traditions.  Krauss has practically abandoned the field without a struggle; he categorically rejects the Jannai date, and tacitly accepts throughout his essay the entire validity of the Christian tradition of

415

the Pilate date, and in this he is supported, as far as I can discover, by the vast majority of modern Jewish scholars who treat of Christian beginnings.

As opposed to Krauss, who throughout his whole argument keeps the inconvenient factor of the Jannai date as much as possible out of the way, we have endeavoured to show that an analysis of Talmud passages and the Toldoth forms produces the impression that the 100 B.C. date element goes back to the floating mass of tradition from which both Talmud and Toldoth drew, and reveals this date as a persistent obsession which even the most glaring contradictions of both Talmud and Toldoth could never oust from its secure asylum in the national consciousness of Jewry.

Moreover, our enquiry into a number of problems connected with Christian origins seems to point to a field of investigation which appears likely to strengthen rather than weaken the possibility of a new consideration of Israel's reminiscences, from a point of view that should make Jewish scholars hesitate before they entirely abandon without a struggle what appears to be one of the fundamentals of their Jesus tradition, although they may in courtesy very well regret some of the thought-images in which part of this tradition has been clothed.

Nor can Jewish scholarship very wisely ignore the problem now that Krauss has brought it again prominently into the arena of apologetics, in his motley assembly of sources for his "Life of Jesus" according to Jewish tradition.  It is true that Krauss has placed the Jannai date well in the background as one of the most disreputable figures in the procession;

416

but it can hardly be expected that the majority of Jewish scholars will agree with Krauss without a further thoroughgoing enquiry, and be content to keep permanently in the background a factor of tradition which seems beyond all others to be the natural leader of the band.  For there can be no doubt that if, from a thoroughgoing investigation of the subject, it could be shown that the Jannai date threw light on many obscure problems, the whole subject of Jewish apologetics would be enormously facilitated, and Jewish tradition would assume an importance for the study of Christian origins that would concentrate the attention of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century upon the Talmud and its allied literature.

If, on the contrary, Jewish scholars find themselves compelled to abandon their tradition in this respect, what hope can they have that the "treasure" which the Israelites have guarded with their lives for so many centuries, will in other respects be regarded by the thinking world as worthy of very serious attention ? They may rather expect to be for ever confronted with the retort: Ex uno disce omnes!

In the Talmud we have a collection of Jewish traditions compiled after the rise of Christianity, compiled during the very centuries when the new Faith was most strenuously fighting its way to the position of becoming the General Faith of the Western world; herein we have the record of the national life, of the hopes and fears of the people amongst whom especially Christianity came to birth; what greater test of the reliability and bona fides of the Talmud could there be, therefore, than the tradition which it contains concerning Jesus ?

417

If, then, Jewish scholarship should find itself compelled to abandon so prominent a feature of this tradition as the Jannai date, and to accept the Christian canonical tradition in this respect, it is difficult to see how the Talmud can be considered anything but a blind guide on the subject which of all others in it most profoundly interests the Western world.

If, on the contrary, as some of my Jewish friends contend, the Life of Jesus, as set forth in elaborate detail by the later Evangelists, came as a complete surprise to the contemporary Rabbis, who possessed nothing but the most meagre traditions of their ancient colleague--vague reminiscences, such as that it all happened a long time ago, perhaps when Jannai was king, that there was some heresy or other started by a Jeschu who had learned wonder-doings and other things in Egypt, and who was put to death for misleading the people-then the Jews would seem to possess a largely extended ground of apology and justification for the rejection of what they already consider, even when they accept the Christian canonical date, to be for the most part a pseudo-historical setting of what was largely a dogmatic development.

It is true that even when accepting the Christian canonical date, the Jewish apologist can still argue that most of the Talmud Jesus stories may be accounted for as the "historicizing" or "legendarizing" of later doctrinal controversies, which may be set over against a similar "historicizing" of doctrinal formulas and dogmas in the Christian tradition; such, he might argue, was the common method of the religious mind of the time, and no one regarded it as a falsification of history; it

418

was understood as a legitimate method by all haggada-compilers, religious controversialists and writers for edification; they wrote with strong religious emotion, and this emotion gave them consent; saving and living ideas, not the dead facts of an uncertain past, were their main interest.  It is true that this method has long passed out of fashion, and that to-day it is the exact antipodes of the scientific precision of fact we demand in all such matters in the twentieth century; but it seems only just to remember that in endeavouring to appreciate the value of the evidence on either side, we have no right to condemn one side more than the other for its unhistorical forms, seeing that for the most part both used essentially similar methods for supporting their contentions, the actual facts of history being frequently set on one side or transformed the instant any doctrinal point became endangered by them.

All this can be fairly argued with regard to many points which have arisen in our enquiry; but we must confess that the Jannai date is very difficult to explain in this way. There is a something peculiar about it which is somewhat fascinating.

If we are told that Jesus lived in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, we are not so astonished; for experience in contemporary apocalyptic and pseudepigraphic literature teaches us that Nebuchadnezzar is clearly a substitute for some other name. If even we are told that Akiba, one of the most famous of anti-Christian controversialists, at the beginning of the second century A.D. calls on Mary to witness to the illegitimacy of Jesus, we can understand that this is a pure device of haggadic polemical rhetoric, but when we are told that

419

Jeschu was the disciple of Joshua ben Perachiah and lived in the days of Jannai, and find this date element cropping up again and again in many guises in Jewish tradition, we fail to find a satisfactory explanation in either of the above canons of exegesis.

It all seems so senseless, so useless; if it was untrue, what purpose could it possibly serve?  If it was the truth, why did not the Rabbis invariably put it in the forefront of all their polemics, and bend all their energies on making their tradition consistent, even as the Christians devoted all theirs to making their story uniform?  But this is just what we do not find; there is not a single word on the Christian side to show that the Rabbis ever argued that the Christian tradition was one hundred years out; no early writer, no Church Father (if we except Epiphanius, who only does so indirectly), breathes a word of such a terrific indictment of the fundamental historicity of the Christian tradition. Whatever we learn of the controversy from the Christian side, it all seems to show that the Rabbis spent all their energies on combatting dogmas--such as the virgin-birth, the divinity of Jesus, the Messiah claim, etc.  It is true that Celsus categorically accuses the Christians of continually altering the Gospel history to suit dogmatic considerations; but is it credible that the Rabbis could have had so potent a weapon in their hands as an ancient and authentic tradition that Jesus lived 100 B.C., and yet have refrained from using it on every occasion?

It might, of course, be argued that this was not necessary in the first century; the controversy then Rabbis, was simply with the Pauline view, in which there was a

420

minimum of history and a maximum of opposition to Jewish legalism, and it was the latter which engaged the whole attention of the Rabbis. It might be said that the contest in that century was, so to say, a combat not of haggadoth but of halachoth; as far as popular Christianity was concerned, there were simply collections of sayings and such mystical forms of doctrine as those with which Paul was familiar and in which history played hardly any part.  But even so, when later on the Jesus haggadoth began to take ever more and more definite shape and the present Gospel narratives came to birth, why, if the Rabbis had in their hands a reliable tradition of the existence of Jesus 100 years B.C., did they not employ it as their main weapon of controversy?

All the evidence seems to point to the fact that they did not generally do so, and, therefore, we are inclined to conclude that they could not have had any general confidence in their tradition; and yet, on the other hand, it persisted among them, and did form an inconvenient weapon of attack, as Epiphanius indirectly witnesses.  It is, of course, a common experience to find what appears to the modern mind to be the main point in a great popular controversy obscured, and every possible subordinate consideration taking precedence of it; this is common to the imbecility of human nature.  But it is just possible that in this special instance the mind of antiquity, in considering that the energies at work were of more importance than the forms in which they were clothed, was nearer the truth than ourselves when we make history and external facts the more important things, and subordinate the consideration of

421

the forces behind the phenomena to a secondary position.

However this may be, it is a fact that ever haunts the consciousness of the historian and gives it no peace, that the most careful research cannot discover a scrap of external evidence in the first century that witnesses to the existence of Jesus, much less to the stupendously marvellous physical doings which the Gospel writers relate of him.

On the contrary, it is almost impossible to believe that these detailed and circumstantial narratives-even when shorn of every "miraculous" element to suit the preconceptions of extreme rationalists--could have been evolved entirely from the inner consciousness of Christian scribism; and, if there be any element in the whole narrative which bears on its face the stamp of genuineness, it is precisely the Pilate date.  This, in my opinion, takes precedence far and away over all other date indications, and if it be not true, I cannot imagine any really satisfactory explanation for what otherwise must apparently have been inevitably shown to be a clumsy invention, for, as I have said before, the Rabbis could have instantly replied: There was no such trial under Pontius Pilate!

The Pilate story seems to have been in existence in written form not long after 70 A.D.  This, of course, cannot be proved, for what can we prove concerning the Gospel narratives in the first century?  But the whole phenomena of Gospel compilation seem to point to its existence somewhere about 75 A.D.  If, then, this deduction holds good, we are compelled to think that, with barely forty years between the last year of Pilate's

422

procuratorship and this date, the probabilities are largely on the side of its genuineness.

On the other hand, 1 have heard it suggested by one who holds to 100 B.C. as the correct date, that the genesis of the Gospel story, which criticism is endeavouring to recover in the form of the "common document," is to be traced to the sketch of an ideal life which was intended for purposes of propaganda, and which could be further explained to those who were ready for more definite instructions in the true nature of the Christ mystery. To a certain extent it was based on some of the traditions of the actual historic doings of Jesus, but the historical details were often transformed by the light of the mystery-teaching, and much was added in changed form concerning the drama of the Christ mystery; allegories and parables and actual mystery-doings were woven into it, with what appears now to be a consummate art which has baffled for ages the intellect of the world, but which at the time was regarded by the writer as a modest effort at simplifying the spiritual truths of the inner life, by putting them forward in the form of what we should now call a "historical romance," but which in his day was one of the natural methods of haggada and apocalyptic.

When it was further questioned: But why did the writer who put together this marvellous story place it at a date which you say was not the real date of Jesus? --the explanation suggested was somewhat as follows.  The evangelical writer put the story at a date between himself and what we consider the actual historical date, most probably because he desired to avoid contro-

423

versy and criticism; he did not desire that the public, and especially those inimical to his own tradition, should be put on the track of the actual date, so that the memory of one who was regarded in the tradition of his school as the beloved Teacher, par excellence, should escape being bandied about in the arena of vulgar curiosity and violent theological controversy. Although his affection induced him to weave many sayings and perhaps some doings of the Master into his work, he especially did not wish to have it mistaken for the actual historical account of the life of the real Jeschu. 

This was the main reason; but the Pilate date was also determined by the fact that there seems to have been some Jewish semi-prophet who created a little disturbance in a very small way, and who was in consequence brought before Pilate on a charge of sedition. The writer may have thus also taken some few facts from this incident and woven it into the main story; but he never had the slightest idea that anyone would take the story in any sense except that in which he intended it.

A further suggestion has also been made that the name Pontius Pilate came most readily to hand in this connection in those days of name-play, for it bore a close resemblance to a mystical term which played an important part in the mystery teaching. My colleague C. W. Leadbeater, in treating of the most ancient form of the creed-formula and the words "Suffered under Pontius Pilate," [1] writes: 

"Instead of PONTIOUPILATOU, the earliest

[1] Leadbeater (C. W.), "The Christian Creed, its Origin and Significance" (London ; n.d. ? 1898), p. 45.

424

Greek manuscripts which the clairvoyant investigators have yet been able to find all read PONTOUPILHTOU.  Now the interchange of A and H is by no means unfrequent in various Greek dialects, so that the only real alteration here is the insertion of the I, which changes pontoV, meaning sea, into pontioV, which is a Roman proper name."

The writer further says that later on epi was substituted for upo, and, with regard to pontoV pilhtoV, states that the term meant a "compressed or densified sea," i.e., the sea of "matter."   This "suffering" of the Logos under the "thickened sea," however, does not refer to physical matter, but to an earlier stage in the descent of the Soul, for the first step mentioned is the assumption of the vesture of matter-- 'the incarnation'; then the taking of human form, though still in the higher principles only; then the 'suffering under Pontius Pilate,' or descent into the astral sea; and only after that the crucifixion on the cross of physical matter, in which He is graphically described as ' dead and buried'" (p. 47).

All things, we are told, are possible to him that of this believeth, and we may add also to him that disbelieveth; but the question here is not so much one of possibility as of probability; that is to say, can a mind which endeavours to put on one side all preconception and prejudice for or against the means whereby the suggested explanation is stated to have been arrived at, and tries to judge of the matter solely on the ground of a hypothesis to explain the puzzling facts of objective research, entertain this suggestion as one that is not inherently improbable?

425

It is true that pilhtoV in Greek is used by Aristotle in the opposite sense to elastic, with the general meaning of that which "may be pressed close without returning to its shape"; while pilatus in Latin also means close-pressed, thick, dense (densus, pressus). "It is further the fact that the early mystical communities have much to say of "water," "sea," "ocean," in the sense or as the symbol of subtle matter.  It might, therefore, be held that these considerations give some colouring of probability to the suggestion. But, even so, it can only remain as a speculation, and cannot emerge into the domain of generally legitimized hypothesis, until objective research into the nomenclature and thought-atmosphere of the early mystic schools convinces us that the main secret of Christian dogmatics is almost entirely hidden in the mysteries of the inner experience.  At present this latter view is repugnant to most minds engaged on the study of Christian origins, but that it is a very legitimate view I am myself becoming more and more convinced with every added year of study bestowed on the beginnings and earliest environment of Christianity.

And in this connection I would venture to say that the actual objective physical history of Jesus himself is one thing; the continued inner presence of the Master whose love and wisdom and power were in the new dispensation first made externally manifest through Jesus, is another matter.  The former is mainly a question of pure objective history, though psychologically it becomes complicated with mysterious influences with which our present very limited knowledge of psychic science is not competent to deal, while the latter is a

426

question of subjective activity, of vision and spiritual experiences, of an energising from within, a divine leaven working in the hearts and minds of disciples of every class of society and range of ability, the actual inner history of which no purely objective research can ever reveal.

From all of this there emerged in course of time a view of history and dogma that gradually shaped itself into ever more and more rigid uniformity; a sameness which we cannot discover in the days when the leaven was most actively working. In earlier times this later special view--let us call it Nicene Christianity--was at best one of a number; nay, in the earliest days it would have been probably unrecognizable as the view of any circle or group of immediate disciples of the Master.

And in this connection it will be of interest to set forth the mystic tradition or the true nature of the "Son of God" and of the "Virgin Birth" as preserved to us in those very instructive documents generally known as Hermetic, but which may be more distinctly characterized as the Trismegistic literature. It is impossible here to set forth the reasons which have convinced me that the oldest deposit of this exceedingly instructive "Alexandrian" scripture must be referred to at least the first century A.D.; to do so would require a treatise as large as, if not larger than, the present essay, and I have hopes only to perfect my researches in the subject in the next twelve months or so, and then to present the reader with a new translation of the existing treatises and fragments and with an extensive review of the whole matter. Meantime let us turn our attention

427

to a most striking passage in the tractate entitled "The Secret Sermon on the Mountain," which further purports, according to its superscription, to be an instruction of "Hermes the Thrice-greatest to his Son Tat on the Mountain. A Secret Sermon on Rebirth and Concerning the Promise of Silence."

The phrase "on the mountain" in the title is to be remarked and compared with the phrase the "passing o'er the mountain" of 1.  This "mountain" seems to be symbolical of the grades of initiation in these inner schools; the external rites may also have been performed frequently on a mountain or hill on which the "monastery" in our modern sense (or, to speak more correctly, the collection of "monasteries" or chambers for meditation) may have been situated. The "passing over (metabasiV) the mountain" was apparently a grade of instruction, or one of the lower grades prior to the sermon or instruction" on the mountain," the substance of which is given in our present treatise. Perhaps the phrase may be rendered the "passage up the mountain," and the term "on the mountain" may refer to the top of the mountain.  In this connection I need hardly refer the student to the frequent occurrence of the term "mountain" in the Gnostic Bruce and Askew Codices (containing the two "Books of Ieou," etc., and the "Pistis Sophia"). In these later presentations of fundamentally the same teachings adapted to more popular beliefs, the mountain is called the "Mount of Galilee," and on it all the great initiations and rites are performed.  The term occurs also in many other places, and frequently in the extra-canonical and apocryphal sayings.

428

Our sermon is in the form of a dialogue between pupil and master, and the first two paragraphs run as follows:

"TAT. In thy discourse ' On Generation,' father, thou spak'st in riddles most unclear, conversing on divinity; and when thou saidst no man could e'er be saved before rebirth, thy meaning thou didst hide.  Further, when I became thy 'suppliant,' upon the 'passing o'er the mount,' after thou hadst conversed with me, and when I longed to learn the lesson on rebirth (for this beyond all other things was just the thing I knew not), thou saidst that thou wouldst give it me--'when thou shalt have become a stranger to the world.' Wherefore I got me ready and made the thought in me a stranger to the world-illusion.  And now do thou fill up the things that fall short in me with what thou saidst would give me the tradition of rebirth, setting it forth in speech or in the secret way.

"I know not, O Thrice-greatest one, from out what matter and what womb man comes to birth, or of what seed."

"HERMES. Wisdom conceived by Mind in Silence [such is the matter and the womb from out which Man is born], and the True Good the seed."

"TAT. What is the sower, father? For I am altogether at a loss."

"HERMES. It is the Will of God, my child."

"TAT. And of what kind is he that is begotten, father? For I have no share of that essence in one which doth transcend the senses. The one that is begot will be another God, God's son?"

"HERMES. All of all, out of all powers composed."

429

"TAT. Thou tellest me a riddle, father, and dost not speak as father unto son."

"HERMES. This race, my child, is never taught; but when He willeth it, its memory is restored by God."[1]

Much more might be quoted in which the master endeavours to make the mystery clearer to the understanding of his pupil, but for the present purpose it is only necessary to add from 4 the following pregnant sentences:

"TAT. Tell me this too. Who is the author of rebirth?"

"HERMES. The Son of God, the One Man, by God's will."

In the second paragraph of Tat's opening words the term "suppliant" is to be specially remarked and taken in close connection with the treatise of Philo "On the Contemplative Life," which, as Conybeare tells us,[2] most probably formed the fourth book of Philo's great work, or rather apology, "De Legatione."  The alternative title of this work was "The Suppliants."  By "suppliant " Philo tells us he means "one who has fled to God and taken refuge with Him." [3]

The phrase, "when thou shalt have become a stranger to the world," is also to be remarked, and among other things may be compared with the new-found Saying : "Jesus saith, except ye fast to the world, ye shall in nowise find the kingdom of God."[4] The idea

[1] For text, see Parthey (G.), "Hermetis Trismegisti Poemander " (Berlin ; 1854), pp. 114, 115.

[2] "Philo about the Contemplative Life" (Oxford ; 1895).

[3] "De Sac.. Ab. et C.," i. 186, 33.

[4] See "LOGIA IHSOU: Sayings of Our Lord," discovered and edited by Grenfell (B. P.) and Hunt (A. S.)-(London ; 1897), p. 10.

430

is a common-place in the extant treatises and fragments of Gnostic literature, and is, of course, found frequently in the canonical documents of general Christianity.

Again in the phrase, "and now do thou fill up the things that fall short in me" (ta usterhmata anaplhrwson), we have the familiar technical terms of the christianized Gnosis (Pleroma and Hysterema, the Plenitude or Fullness and the Insufficiency or Emptiness), but not yet apparently systematized as in the Basilidean and Valentinian schools.[1]

The treatise leaves on one side all questions of cosmogenesis and at once proceeds to deal with spiritual anthropogenesis or the spiritual birth of man. It will be remembered by students of these theosophical sermons that the birth of Man, the inner spiritual Son of God, is given as follows in "The Shepherd" treatise (12): "But the All-Father, Mind, being Life and Light, brought forth a 'Man' co-equal with Himself."  Man is the Son of the Great Mind of the universe, He is the Son of God. The christianizing Gnostic schools loved further to elaborate these ineffable processes, but "Hermes" is content to put forward a far more simple statement, and gives the whole answer to the neophyte's question in a brief sentence or two.  It is true the pupil cannot as yet understand the words, nevertheless the whole process of rebirth or regeneration is given in the two opening answers of Hermes in 2, and this process of rebirth is the same in man's small universe as the birth of the spiritual Man the Regenerator, cosmically the third member of the trinity God the Creator, God the Preserver, and God the Regenerator,

[1] See especially Hippolytus, "Philosophumena," iv. 29 ff.

431

who are all One God looked at from different points of view.  The Preserver apparently evolves the substance of the universe, the Creator seemingly fashions it according to the necessary laws, and the Regenerator is thought of as breaking through the spheres, freeing the spirit once more and restoring it to its primal source.

The whole secret of rebirth is Wisdom, which is conceived by Mind in contemplative Silence; the object of this contemplation is the True Good or God.  The Will of God so to speak turns on itself and becomes the will of man to know God.

But the neophyte is represented as still without understanding of this great truth. He still desires to understand it in what we may call, in spite of the confusion of terms, his natural mind, the mind of the senses; he has not in him, he declares, any portion of that Mind which transcends this physical consciousness, or, perhaps, better, the "sensible world" in its proper philosophical meaning.  To him Man must be something different from God.  If God brings forth a Son, then there must be two Gods, and the unity is destroyed.  To which doubt the master mysteriously replies : "All in all, out of all powers composed."  So far from being different from God, Man is all in all, out of all powers, endowed with all powers - not, of course, the little man we think we are, but the Great Man we really are in our Selves, nay rather in our Self, which is One.

This truth, says Hermes, is not taught by ordinary means, not argued out and demonstrated by the senses or by physical processes. It is a memory that God of the awakes in the soul. It must be self-perceived. "This race (genoV), my child, is never taught."  What is the

432

meaning of the strange term "race," which, as far as I am aware, all translators and commentators have previously missed? Let me again refer to Philo's treatise.

"But as for the race of devotees,"[1] he says, "who are taught ever more and more to see, let them strive for the intuition of That-which-is; let them transcend the sun which men perceive [and gaze upon the Light beyond], nor ever leave this rank [2] which leads to perfect blessedness. Now they who betake themselves to [the divine] service, [do so] not because of any custom, or some one's advice or appeal, but carried away by heavenly love." [3]

And again: "Now this race (genoV) of men is to be found in many parts of the inhabited world, both Grecian and non-Grecian world, sharing in the perfect Good."

This "race," then, seems to be the race of the Logos, even as was the race of Elxai," or those who have the higher mind active in them. 

The manner of this rebirth, of this restoring of memory, is given in the opening paragraph of 3, where Hermes describes one of the results of contemplation, in which the consciousness is, so to speak, transferred to the spiritual "vehicle"; but even here it is not taught, it is seen. This state of consciousness is not a mediumistic state of trance; the master has still full contact with the physical world, but the centre or focus of his consciousness is, so to speak, transferred to the higher spiritual part of his nature.

[1] Or the " therapeutic race." 

[2] Order, space or plane. 

[3] P. 891 ; M. 473, 10.

[4] P. 892 ; M. 474, 35.

433

Yet is the pupil still confused, for he still sees the physical body of his master before him.  It is not the lower man, the master goes on to explain, who can bring about this inner change of consciousness, it is the higher Man who does so.  Even the belief of the pupil that he actually sees the physical body of his master as a continuous thing is a sense-illusion, for every particle of it is in perpetual change.  Accordingly, with 6, Hermes lays down the great doctrine of the really True, the One Reality, as opposed to the perpetual change of manifested things.  How can This be perceived with mortal eyes?  he asks.

Hereupon Tat loses courage, and begins to think that the thing is too high for him, and that he has no higher mind.  But Hermes warmly sets aside such an impious doubt, and proceeds to explain why the spiritual "senses" of his pupil are clouded and blinded by the brutish or irrational things of matter.  The psychological problem is then stated in what seems to me to be a perfectly scientific fashion.  The soul "substances" or "forces" have no direction in themselves ; it is the will of man that can turn them upwards or downwards, so that they become manifest as virtues or vices.  These virtues or vices are simply the tendencies of the distinct substantial things, or component parts or forces, of the soul, rational if ruled by the reason, irrational if out of its control.

Indeed, it is the real "mind," the "man," that is the eternal idea of true humanity in us; it is, as it were, individual and yet not separate, sharing with all, sympathizing with all, yet showing forth in every manifestation some special aspect, one yet many, the

434

true source of fellowship and communion, the mystery of all mysteries, man and humanity in one, the that "which prevents us if we are about to do a thing not rightly," if we will but follow its loving guidance, and finally the only way by which we can know God and recognize our eternal sonship.

But we have already gone far beyond what was necessary for our immediate purpose, namely, the showing forth of the mystic and truly philosophic view of the nature of the birth of "the Christ" in the hearts of men, which was held by pious and thinking minds in at least the first century of our era.  In it we have in my opinion a setting forth of the mystery which can shock no man's intelligence, but which on the contrary was, I most firmly believe, the central truth insisted on by the great Master of Christendom Himself.  Those who, in spite of the evidence which is coming to light on all hands from a thoroughgoing analysis of tradition, still hold desperately to the gross materialism of the popular dogma of the physical virgin birth, must do so at peril of destroying the whole comfort derivable from the Life of Jesus.  For if, as it is claimed by theology, Jesus Christ was born miraculously without sin, what example can He possibly be for men born in sin?  There can be no "imitation" on these premisses ; for miracle alone can imitate miracle.  The true Conqueror is he who wins his way through human nature, sinful human nature, towards the Divine; and unless I am grievously mistaken and read quite wrongly the records of the world's greatest Teachers, it is in this precisely that the triumph of a Christ consists.

435

In the Foreword of this essay I said that I would endeavour to show how even Jew and Christian could learn to understand and respect each other even on the ground of religion--I meant of course the Jew of to-day and the Christian of to-day.  I believe that in the central fact above referred to, the basic truth not only of Christianity but also of Judaism and of every other great religion, all men may meet together in true fellowship and concord.

Doubtless I have put forward the matter in a very crude and imperfect fashion; I have probably used erroneous expressions and terms, have unwillingly hurt those whom I have not the faintest wish to distress, have misrepresented the position of others owing to my ignorance of what they really think and feel; but I have endeavoured to be just and accurate, and have been guided by a profound sympathy for humanity, a fellow-feeling with all, whatever creed they may profess; for the central fact of our general experience is that we are all in the same ignorance, struggling and battling for light.  And I fear this ignorance will never be removed from our midst unless we co-operate together, and speak with utter frankness man to man, without fear of endangering our several vested interests, be they material, or psychic, or mental, or spiritual.

In conclusion, therefore, if it be not thought impertinent for so obscure an individual to do so, I would courteously ask the learned of the Jews for a thoroughgoing explanation of their traditions of Jesus with special reference to the date question and to pre-Christian mystic and heretical schools of every kind; and the learned of the Christians for a reconsideration

436

of the history of their origins by the light of such facts, for instance, as the patristically acknowledged striking similarity between the practices of the Therapeut Essene communities and the earliest Christian assemblies, the puzzling phenomena of the "Churches of God" which Paul found, using the "gifts of the Spirit" as some long-established practice, and the members of which he addresses in language which shows them as familiar with the most technical terms of the Gnosis, and the widespread pre-Christian rites of resurrection, and if not of crucifixion at any rate of stigmatization, as admitted by Epiphanius, and thereafter for a reinvestigation of the canonical date in connection therewith, and with the now well-known facts of the manner of making of haggadic, apocalyptic and pseudepigraphic literature, prior to and contemporary with the writing of our present canonical Gospels.

For my own part, I feel at present somewhat without an absolutely authoritative negative to the very strange question: "Did Jesus live 100 B.C.?" and doubtless shall continue to feel so until all sides of the question have been again rigorously scrutinized by the ever finer critical equipment which the twentieth century must inevitably develop, and in the light of the great toleration which the ever-growing humanism of our day is extending to the most intractable questions of theology.

ADDITIONAL NOTES.

P. 47. With regard to the chronology of the Christian era and the influence of the Caesar cult on Christian dogmatics, a field of immense interest and importance has recently been opened up by the researches of Alexander Del Mar, in his painstaking study, " The Worship of Augustus Caesar, derived from a Study of Coins, Monuments, Calendars, AEras and Astronomical and Astrological Cycles, the whole establishing a New Chronology and Survey of History and Religion" (New York ; 1900). In his Preface (pp. viii, ix), Del Mar writes :

"It will be shown upon ample evidences that after the submission of the Oriental provinces and consolidation of the empire, Augustus Caesar set himself up for that Son of God whose advent, according to Indian chronology, synchronized with the reappearance of the Oriental Messiah ; the date being A.U. 691 (B.C. 63), the alleged year of Augustus' birth; that this claim and assumption appears in the literature of his age, was engraved upon his monuments and stamped upon his coins; that it was universally admitted and accepted throughout the Roman Empire as valid and legitimate, both according to Indian and Roman chronology, astrology, prophesy and tradition; that his actual worship as such Son of God--Divus Filius--was enjoined and enforced by the laws of the empire, accepted by the priesthood and practised by the people ; and that both de jure and de facto it constituted the fundamental article of the Roman imperial and ecclesiastical constitution."

In an exceedingly interesting article, "The Time of the World," in "The Indian Review" of January 1903, Del Mar writes :

"I. If we accept the epoch of the zodions fixed by Godfrey Higgins . . . Alexander the Great altered such epoch to the extent of twenty-eight or thirty years, in order to bring the beginning

438

of Pisces to the year of his Apotheosis.  Higgins' epoch of Pisces is B.C. 360.  The Apotheosis of Alexander took place in the Libyan Temple of Jupiter Ammon, December 25th, B.C. 322. In that temple he found Aries regnant; he left it with Pisces triumphant.  He was afterwards known as Ichthys, the Fish, the Great Isskander, etc., titles that are connected with the zodion Pisces.

"II. Julius Ceasar altered the Olympiads from five to four years each, and their starting-point from a year equivalent to B.C. 884 to one equal to B.C. 776, an initial difference of 108 years. . . .

"III. Augustus Caesar altered the epochs of the Ludi Saeculares to the extent of seventy-eight years.  This changed the year of the Foundation of Rome from the equivalent of B.C. 816 to B.C. 738, and had a variable influence on other important dates.

"IV. Some time before the seventeenth century the Latin Sacred College restored fifteen years to the Roman calendar.  All the years were inserted into that portion of the calendar which preceded the Christian era; it had the effect to remove the year of the foundation of Rome backward to B.C. 753, where it now stands. It also changed the Anno Augusti.

"To recapitulate, Alexander altered the zodions; Julius Caesar, the Olympiads; Augustus, the Ludi Saeculares and year of Rome; Pope Gregory VI. or XIII. (?) the Augustan era ; and Gregory XIII., the New Year Day and some other festivals, perhaps also the Year of the Nativity.

"The net result of these various alterations shows a present difference between Oriental and Western chronologies of sixty-three years ; that is, when both are computed from any certain astronomical event. . . .

"Had the calendar, as arranged by Augustus, remained unaltered to the present day, his Apotheosis would have answered to our A.D. 0, or the year before A.D. 1; but owing to the fifteen years shifting already alluded to, his Apotheosis now bears the date of B.C. 15. ...

"The introduction of the Christian era as a measure of time resulted in throwing all ancient dates into confusion.  This was due to several circumstances.  I. It was not an era, like the year of the world, or like Scaliger's astronomical era, which ante-dated all historical epochs, and ran on continuously from its own year to an endless succession of years. On the contrary, the Christian era is used both backward and forward; and as no allowance is made in it for a year between A.D. 1 and B.C. 1, it makes a difference of

439

one year as between itself and every era more ancient than itself.  II. As it took its starting-point from the Roman era, more especially the AEra Augusti, it embraced all the chronological alterations which that era embraced.  III. In correcting vitiated dates, the same number of years must be deducted from 'A.D.' dates which have to be added to 'B.C.' dates. This is a source of endless confusion.  IV. As before stated, it was itself altered to the extent of fifteen years. Its use, therefore, involves three classes of errors, viz., the ancient alterations as between the Olympiads and the year of Rome; the single year between A.D. 1 and B.C. 1 ; and the fifteen-year alteration of the Middle Ages."


What exact bearing all this may have on our question I have not as yet been able to discover, but that Del Mar's researches must be taken into account in any thoroughgoing investigation of Christian chronology I am fully persuaded.

P. 154. A curious subject of speculation in connection with the Mamzer stories is opened up by the criticism of the artificial genealogy prefixed to the first Gospel (Matt. i. 1-17), "with the singular stress laid upon Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, the converted sinners and heathens, as mothers of the elect one (compare Gen. R. ii.; Hor. 10b ; Nazir 23b ; Meg 14b)"--as Kohler puts it in his article, "Christianity in its Relation to Judaism," in the "Jewish Encyclopedia."  Von Soden, in his article, "Genealogies of Jesus," in the "Encyclopaedia Biblica" (in the just published fourth volume), referring to the only three women mentioned in the genealogies, says : "Rabbinic scholars also interested themselves in these women.  On Tamar and Ruth compare Weber, 'Altsynag. Theol.,1' 341. Rahab they transformed into an inn-keeper (Jos., 'Antt.,' v. i. 27), and traced to her eight prophets (Lightfoot, 'Hor. Heb.,' 180 ; Menschen, 'N. T. u. Talm.,1' 40).  She was an object of interest also to the early Christians, as 'Heb.' xi. 31 and 'James' ii. 25 show.  Perhaps they interpreted 'harlot' allegorically as 'heathen.'" Compare this with "Deborah the landlady" and the "inn" of our Talmud stories.  The curious student of human nature may also refer to the use made of these genealogical details by Guy de Maupassant in his short story, "Nos Anglais," in the collection entitled Toine (Paris; 1903).

P. 301. A Jewish friend has just communicated to me an oral form of Toldoth which differs in some particulars from any other form with which I am acquainted.  My correspondent says that it comes from ancient Poland, and was included among the Jewish "old wives' tales," but he cannot trace its origin further. The

440

name of the betrothed is Jochanan and of the seducer Joseph, the name of the boy is Jeschu, as in other forms; then follows the accusation of bastardy, and the robbing of the Shem, and the doing of wonders thereby." But the spirit of the Rabbis was distressed, and fearing lest Israel should be enticed by the magical powers of Jeschu, R. Meir volunteered to profane his own powers and so bring about the fall of Jeschu."  He accordingly does so in the way familiar to us in the other Toldoth forms.  "When the women-reapers saw that the magician had fallen, they pelted him with cabbages until he died.  But the Romans had already believed that Jeschu was a superhuman being, and when they heard of his death, they wished to exterminate all the Jews.  R. Meir, in order to appease the anger of the Romans, and save his people from destruction, again made use of his extraordinary divine powers, and again mounted into the air, exclaiming : 'Lo! I fly higher than Jeschu flew, as a sign that he hath sent me to institute your festivals.' And this he did with great wisdom, so that the Jewish festivals should always come first and be spent more happily.  Thus he instituted Sunday the next day after the Sabbath," etc. R. Meir was the pupil of Akiba, and does not appear in any other form of Toldoth.

[End]

Content | Previous